What is Shaken Baby Syndrome?

Shaken baby syndrome is a severe form of head injury that occurs when a baby is shaken forcibly enough to cause the baby’s brain to bounce against his or her skull.  This bouncing may cause bruising, swelling, and bleeding of the brain, which may lead to permanent, severe brain damage or death.  The condition is usually the result of non-accidental trauma or child abuse.  In rare instances, it may be caused by tossing a baby in the air or jogging with a baby in a backpack.


Symptoms of shaken baby syndrome may include: changes in behavior, irritability, lethargy, loss of consciousness, pale or bluish skin, vomiting or convulsions.  Although there usually are no outward physical signs of trauma, there may be broken, injured, or dislocated bones and injuries to the neck and spine.


Immediate emergency treatment is necessary and usually includes life-sustaining measures such as stopping internal bleeding and relieving increased intracranial pressure.  Not only should every treatment be sought, cases of shaken baby syndrome should be reported to the protective services agency in your area. Generally, the prognosis for children with shaken baby syndrome is poor.  Most will be left with considerable disability.  Retinal damage may cause loss of vision.  If the child survives, he or she may require lifelong medical care for brain damage injuries such as mental retardation or cerebral palsy.


If you are afraid you might hurt your child please follow these simple three steps.


  1. Stop.   Put the child in a safe place and leave the room for a few minutes.
  2. Calm down. Call a friend or neighbor, take ten deep breaths, then take ten more, do something for yourself, change your activity, or sit down, close your eyes, think of a pleasant place in your memory.
  3. Try again. Go back to your child and try again to deal with the problems at hand.



For more information please contact the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development at 301-496-5133, or visit them online at www.michd.hih.gov.  If you would like to make a report, please contact Protective Services at 800-942-4357.


Phone code: 1713

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